Dashing Debut: Martinez, Huskers Run to Win
Lincoln - Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez made an impressive college debut by rushing for 127 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries to help No. 8 Nebraska sprint to a 49-10 season-opening win over Western Kentucky at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Martinez, who became the first Husker freshman quarterback in history to start a season opener, made his debut in front of the NCAA-record 305th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium with 85,555 on hand and an FSN pay-per-view audience at home.
On his first career carry, Martinez sprinted 46 yards for a touchdown to give Nebraska a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. The 6-1, 195-pound speedster from Corona, Calif., also completed all four of his first-quarter pass attempts for 59 yards to help NU to a quick 14-0 lead.
After sophomore quarterback Cody Green led the Huskers on a successful second-quarter scoring drive to put Nebraska up 21-0 at the half, Martinez found the end zone again on the first drive of the second half.
Martinez raced 43 yards on his first carry of the drive, before dashing 19 yards up the middle to the end zone to cap a four-play, 68-yard drive that put NU up 28-0. The touchdown run also pushed him over the 100-yard mark to make him the first NU quarterback to rush for 100 yards since Jammal Lord against Texas A&M in 2003.
Martinez, who averaged better than 18 yards per carry, produced the most rushing yards by an NU quarterback in a season-opening game since Tommie Frazier rushed for 130 yards against West Virginia in the 1994 Kickoff Classic.
In addition to his impressive rushing numbers, Martinez completed 9-of-15 passes for 136 yards to finish with 263 yards of total offense. He also did not commit a turnover.
While Martinez took center stage as the starter, which was not announced officially until he took the field for the first snap, sophomore quarterback Cody Green was also impressive.
Green a 6-4, 225-pounder from Dayton, Texas, completed 5-of-6 passes for 66 yards while leading the Huskers on a pair of scoring drives. Green's first drive was a seven-play, 34-yard march that was capped by Roy Helu Jr.'s three-yard touchdown run with 5:49 left in the second quarter.
Green, who also rushed three times for 17 yards, led the Huskers on another seven-play march in the fourth quarter, with the exclamation point coming on his 33-yard scoring strike to Niles Paul to give Nebraska a 42-10 lead with 9:45 left in the game.
Paul finished with five catches for 92 yards and a score, while adding one carry for eight yards. He also returned three punts for 58 yards to close the night with 158 all-purpose yards.
Junior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie also enjoyed a big night for NU, hauling in a career-high six catches for 59 yards, while sophomore I-back Rex Burkhead added a pair of catches for 47 yards out of the backfield. Burkhead also enjoyed an explosive night on the ground, carrying five times for 57 yards to average nearly 15 yards per touch.
Nebraska's big-play offense amassed 536 total yards on just 58 plays, an average of 9.2 yards per play. The Huskers rolled for 289 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 33 carries for an average of 8.8 yards per rush, while 11 different Huskers had at least one tote on the night. In addition to the three rushing touchdowns from Martinez and one each from Helu and Burkhead, Austin Jones closed the scoring with his first career touchdown on a five-yard burst in the fourth quarter.
Senior quarterback Zac Lee also moved the Huskers well on their final two drives of the night. On his first drive, Lee handed twice to Jones to complete a two-play, 13-yard drive after a shanked WKU punt. On NU's final drive, Lee completed 3-of-4 passes for 45 yards and rushed three times for 21 yards to march NU into the red zone before time expired.
Overall, the three Husker quarterbacks completed 17-of-25 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown.
Western Kentucky, which extended the nation's longest losing streak to 21 games, managed 299 total yards on 62 plays against a stingy Blackshirt defense.
Running back Bobby Rainey did most of the damage for the Hilltoppers and first-year Head Coach Willie Taggert. Rainey, a 5-8, 196-pound junior from Griffin, Ga., rushed for a career-best 155 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 carries. He also pulled down three receptions for 36 yards. Rainey's touchdown was the first by an NU opponent in 13 quarters at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska returns to home action next Saturday when the Huskers meet the Idaho Vandals (1-0) for the first time in program history. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. (central) with an FSN pay-per-view telecast.
Final: Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10
First Quarter (NU, 14-0)
NU - 11:23 - Taylor Martinez 46 run (Alex Henery kick) - 3 plays, 55 yards, 1:17, NU 7-0
NU - 6:11 - Rex Burkhead 20 run (Henery kick) - 3 plays, 52 yards, 1:12, NU 14-0
Second Quarter (NU, 21-0)
NU - 5:49 - Roy Helu Jr. 3 run (Henery kick) - 7 plays, 34 yards, 3:47, NU 21-0
Third Quarter (NU, 35-3)
NU 12:54 - Martinez 19 run (Henery kick) - 4 plays, 68 yards, 1:59, NU 28-0
WKU - 8:20 - Casey Tinius 25 FG - 11 plays, 67 yards, 4:27, NU 28-3
NU - 2:01 - Martinez 15 run (Henery kick) - 6 plays, 80 yards, 2:18, NU 35-3
Fourth Quarter (NU 49-10)
WKU - 12:46 - Bobby Rainey 5 run (Tinius kick) - 9 plays, 80 yards, 4:15, NU 35-10
NU - 9:45 - Niles Paul 33 pass from Cody Green (Henery kick) - 7 plays, 86 yards, 2:56
NU - 5:42 - Austin Jones 5 run (Henery kick) - 2 plays, 13 yards, 0:49
Final: Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10
Time of Game: 3:04